Video: Click here to watch Denzel Washington's message to Papillion-La Vista South High School students.
Movie star Denzel Washington thrilled a metro Omaha high school pep rally Friday.
Students at Papillion-La Vista South High School cheered as school officials surprised them with a personal video message from the actor — and a promise by Washington to pay a visit.
South students, whose mascot is the Titan, made a music video last year inviting the star of “Remember the Titans” for the school's 10th anniversary.
Their video showed about 1,600 students — the entire student body — at a pep rally chanting “We Want Denzel” and dancing to the Titan Shuffle, which was featured in the 2000 Disney movie.
Washington, who portrayed the tough but kind-hearted football coach Herman Boone in the movie, replied to students this week via a video shot in his trailer on a movie set.
In the video, which was shown on the gym wall, Washington says he can't make it Sept. 28, the day South will be celebrating its anniversary.
It's his wife's birthday and he'll be in Sacramento watching his son John Washington play in the United Football League. John is a running back for the Sacramento Mountain Lions. The team hosts the Omaha Nighthawks on Sept. 28.
“But I promise you, I promise you I am going to show up in Omaha one of these days. I'm not even going to tell you when. You'll be in school. I'm going to make sure it's while you're in school, and I'm just going to walk in and surprise all you guys,” Washington said.
“I will be there because you are the Titans, the mighty, mighty Titans. Everywhere you go people want to know, who you are, so you tell them. And I can tell you this, from the bottom of my heart, I will always remember the Titans. Always.”
Chris Harlow, who graduated last spring from South, originated the wewantdenzel.com website and helped film the music video. He said he had started to lose hope that Washington would respond. He called the video appearance a "nice compromise" for now and said everyone at South is looking forward to the promised live appearance.
Senior Jake Barrientos, a Titan football player called the video "a good pump up for the game tonight." South plays crosstown rival Papillion-La Vista in the season opener.
“Remember the Titans” has special meaning for South's students.
The community voted for “Titans” as the school mascot shortly after the movie was released.
Every year since 2003, the Titan freshmen class has watched the movie. Their first assignment as Titans is to write an essay inspired by the movie.
Ten years ago, the real coach Boone visited Papillion and electrified the first-ever pep rally at the new school. He urged students to build bridges between races and to always do their best.
He also encouraged the Papillion-La Vista South Titans to invite him back in 10 years, along with Washington.
In 1971, Boone was named head football coach of the newly formed and racially integrated T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. His players overcame their own prejudices, posted a 13 - 0 record and won the state championship. Their success helped unite a racially divided community.
During Boone's visit, he presented the school a poster featuring the original Titans football team and an autographed photo of himself with Washington, signed: “God Bless, Denzel Washington.”
Washington won the best-actor Oscar for the 2001 movie “Training Day” and best supporting actor for the 1989 film “Glory.”
World-Herald staff writer Jonathon Braden contributed to this report.
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